Love letters on napkins are always best when being sent to a waitress. -Tod
When I first moved to Albany, Georgia—before I met Jane or Darwin—I developed a karaoke habit. I considered it a pretty great way to meet people, and I was mostly right about that. I didn’t hang on to any of the people I met at karaoke in those first few months. They were all some version of a life hiccup—the married woman who came to my apartment to show me naked pictures of herself, the fry-cook whose nickname was “Deuce,” the old man who thought he was Elvis but who strutted like a cartoon rooster, and Buddy the karaoke jockey who replaced the words “sharp-dressed” with “well-hung” in the old ZZ Top song.
As I’ve mentioned, before I moved to Albany, I would play this game with my writer friends where we would start a poem on a cocktail napkin and then pass it around the table until we had a limerick or a sonnet or some other shitty and drunk poetry. It was a game that I still like to play sometimes, even though I have fewer writer friends in real life now.
Side note—it is maybe more fun to play this game with non-writers. Sometimes people with no stake in the game will provide a real gem of a line. But mostly it’s because when the game is played with non-writers, the emphasis shifts from the writing to the drinking.
So back in Albany, karaoke took place every Friday evening at a fine dining and eatery known for wings and beer and owl mascots. The waitresses were all nice, as they were all working for tips—and just for tips, mind you (pun very much intended). Deuce would end up dating a couple of them before it was over with, but that isn’t terribly important—I wasn’t the one dating them, after all.
I did build some solid acquaintanceships with a few of the girls, though. I was a regular, and I tipped well (no puns there), and I would get really drunk and write these really shitty poems. On a good night, I would write a sonnet, like this one:
You weren’t my waitress on that Friday night
But I owed you a sonnet anyway.
As the night ate away at the sun’s light,
Just your smile made the night into day.
The last flower in a brown and dead field,
your face perched high on a perfect frame.
When you walked out in all black, the deal was sealed—
the other servers here are really lame.
AmberBock flows through my veins rapidly,
the nectar of the gods and goddesses.
I call you when I’m here and thirst,
when I need beer’s soft, tender caresses.
Why did they put you inside this whole time?
You almost missed out on this [im]perfect rhyme.
But on really good (read: drunk) nights, the lucky server would only get five lines in limerick fashion like this:
I am too drunk to write a sonneteven if you were a bonnet.
I can’t even try to make sense when I write
at this point in the night.
There’s nothing else that rhymes with “sonnet.”
Now, I refuse to have a conversation with anyone about the quality of these, even though I’m fairly impressed with the sonnet considering my state at the time. The limerick is a piece of shit, though. For real.
No, the point of it all is to say three things. One, I had some fun back then. A lot of the things I write about Albany tend to slam it, and I did feel a lot of pain there. But sometimes, if we just put ourselves out there, we can have fun. Two, it’s not always about taking someone home. Spoiler Alert – I never took a Hooters girl home with one of my poems. But that is not what life was about for me. That’s not really ever what it was about, I guess.
Finally, look for the poetry. It is all around us. It is in the dog sniffing the ground, the bird’s flight, a lover’s eyes. Sometimes poetry is at the bottom of a pitcher of beer. And sometimes, it’s wearing horrendous orange shorts and terrible nylon stockings. But it’s always there. Look for the poetry.